`US hoping to further strategic ties with India during Kerry visit`

Visiting US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said Washington is looking forward to furthering its ties with India.

New Delhi: Visiting US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman on Friday said Washington is looking forward to furthering its ties with India during next month’s Strategic Dialogue.

Addressing a news conference in the national capital, Ambassador Sherman said that she had good and very productive meetings with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai today.

“All of this, and lots of other ways, is to connect with people here in New Delhi, to prepare for the Strategic Dialogue in late June when Secretary (John) Kerry will make a visit, his first visit as the Secretary of State to India,” Ambassador Sherman said.

“He is very much looking forward to that. We have been working at all levels throughout both of our governments on a number of projects dealing with global economics, global strategic security, energy, climate change, people-to-people regional cooperation. It is really extraordinary, the depth and breadth of the India-US relationship and we look forward to furthering that relationship through the Strategic Dialogue and the many things that we do together,” she added.

“We also hope to welcome the visit of your Prime Minister to the United States at some point in the near future, because this is a strong, powerful relationship and not only in the region, but in the world,” Ambassador Sherman said.

When specifically asked whether India has sought access to David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Rana, prime accused in the 2008 Mumbai terror strikes, Under Secretary Sherman said: “As you know, prior to the conviction recently of Mr Headley, there had been access and we understand that there is request for more. I know there was a Homeland Security Dialogue that was just completed in Washington. That is the channel along with our Department of Justice to resolve this request and I am sure that both our governments will work through this in whatever way is appropriate.”

Ambassador Sherman also welcomed India’s “tremendous progress” in reducing the level of its importation of Iranian oil.

“India has long been a leader in non-proliferation. They have stood side-by-side with all of us in the international community to say that Iran should not acquire a nuclear weapon. We greatly appreciate all of the leadership that India has provided, including their enforcement of sanctions. That decision will be made shortly. And all of the data is certainly pointing in a positive direction,” she said.

When asked whether India can play a role in the peace and security of Afghanistan, Under Secretary Sherman said: “I think India is a crucial and key player in the future security and development of Afghanistan – both bilaterally and regionally.”

“India has already made bilateral investments in Afghanistan, including as you know in an iron ore mine, but in many ways, providing capabilities and technical assistance. India has also been a leader in the new Silk Road and the Heart of Asia process. And, anything that happens in this region of the world is going to be positive when India is engaged,” she added.


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